Pirates-Padres Preview


A.J. Burnett is enjoying a late-career resurgence with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2012, while the San Diego Padres are Jason Marquis' second team this season and sixth in the last five years.

When the right-handers matched up 10 days ago, those narratives didn't continue quite the same way.

Marquis looks to shut down the Pirates yet again Tuesday night at Petco Park while Burnett tries to bounce back from a pair of rough outings to become Pittsburgh's first 16-game winner in 21 years.

Burnett (15-4, 3.54 ERA) has given the Pirates a true front-of-the-rotation starter following three rocky years with the Yankees, but his last two starts have been a slight cause for concern. He allowed five runs and nine hits over 5 2-3 innings of a 5-0 loss to San Diego (54-70) on Aug. 11, then gave up six runs over 6 2-3 in a 10-6 victory over Los Angeles on Thursday.

Still, Burnett will take the hill Tuesday looking to become the Pirates' first 16-game winner since 1991, when John Smiley won 20 and Zane Smith 16.

Marquis (6-7, 4.08), meanwhile, has won 18 games while posting a 5.18 ERA in 57 starts for four teams over the past three seasons. That's why it was so surprising when the journeyman tossed a two-hitter at PNC Park to beat Burnett earlier this month, taking a no-no into the seventh.

"He can be very efficient with the late life (on his sinker). You've got to get under that ball, or stay inside of it," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle, who briefly managed Marquis in Colorado, told the Pirates' official website. "I've seen that, and it can be challenging, because you keep wanting to hit, but you don't hit anything hard.

"It's the late life, it's the late movement, staying off the barrel, staying down. A lot of ground balls from our side, and just not many balls squared up at all."

The Pirates (67-55) didn't get many balls squared up in Monday's series opener, striking out 13 times in a 3-1 loss as their lead for the NL's second wild-card spot dropped to one-half game over the Dodgers.

Pittsburgh's 163 strikeouts in August are the most in the majors. League MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen is the latest surprising culprit, going 3 for 18 with nine strikeouts over his last three games.

McCutchen is hitting just .206 without a homer in 18 career contests against San Diego, with the Pirates going 4-14. He has three singles in 26 career at-bats at Petco.

Burnett, on the other hand, might welcome a start in San Diego. Though he's generally been at his best at home in 2012, he's 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA and .100 opponent batting average in his last three road starts.

He's made two starts in San Diego - one a nondescript outing at Petco in 2005, and the other his infamous nine-walk no-hitter at Qualcomm Stadium in 2001 with Florida.

Marquis is 6-1 with a 2.80 ERA in his last seven starts against the Pirates. Six of the 14 earned runs he's allowed in that stretch came in the lone loss.

Marquis enters this start looking to bounce back from a rough outing. After the two-hitter in Pittsburgh, he saw three pitches leave Turner Field and didn't make it through the fifth inning of Thursday's 6-0 loss to Atlanta.